Utah State or Iowa? Find out in Randy Johnson's weekly Big Ten picks

College football's Zero Week provided an appetizer over the weekend, but now the main course begins Thursday and runs through Monday as teams open their 2023 seasons. In the Big Ten, all 14 teams are in action, including a trio of conference games and a couple of nonconference matchups full of intrigue. It's the last year before the College Football Playoff expands from four to 12 teams and likely the last go-round for the Pac-12 Conference, which was picked apart due to conference realignment.

Here are picks for this week's Big Ten games. (Note: The Gophers-Nebraska pick will appear later in the week.)


Central Michigan at Michigan State, 6 p.m., FS1

Spartans endured a forgettable 2022, so they take out some frustrations on the Chippewas. Michigan State 31, Central Michigan 14.


East Carolina at No. 2 Michigan, 11 a.m., Peacock

ESPN projects that 17 Wolverines could be selected in the 2024 NFL draft. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, in this game, you don't wanna be a Pirate. Michigan 51, East Carolina 10.

Utah State at No. 25 Iowa, 11 a.m., FS1

The Hawkeyes are known for their slow starts, but Phil Parker's defense will bail out Brian Ferentz's offense once again. Iowa 17, Utah State 10.

Fresno State at Purdue, 11 a.m., BTN

The Bulldogs are on a nine-game winning streak and face a Boilermakers team in its first game under new coach Ryan Walters. Purdue is favored by 3½ points, but this smells like an upset. Fresno State 37, Purdue 34.

No. 3 Ohio State at Indiana, 2:30 p.m., CBS

The Buckeyes will be breaking in a new quarterback, but not new wide receivers. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka score at will against the Hoosiers. Ohio State 48, Indiana 17.

Buffalo at No. 19 Wisconsin, 2:30 p.m., FS1

Wisconsin made the splashiest hire this side of Deion Sanders when it landed Luke Fickell from Cincinnati. He should get the Badgers pointed in the right direction quickly. Wisconsin 34, Buffalo 10.

Towson at Maryland, 2:30 p.m., BTN

This has a name-your-score feel for the Terrapins against a middle-of-the-pack FCS program. Maryland 48, Towson 17.

West Virginia at No. 7 Penn State, 6:30 p.m., NBC

These programs are roughly 180 miles apart yet haven't met since 1992. "Big Ten Saturday Night'' on NBC debuts with the Nittany Lions roughing up the Mountaineers. Penn State 45, West Virginia 10.

Toledo at Illinois, 6:30 p.m., BTN

The Rockets won nine games last year, are favorites to win the Mid-American Conference East Division and have a dynamic QB in DeQuann Finn. The Fighting Illini counter with possibly the best defensive line in college football. Illini in a close one. Illinois 24, Toledo 20.


Northwestern at Rutgers, 11 a.m., CBS

An offseason of turmoil saw Northwestern endure a hazing scandal that forced the firing of coach Pat Fitzgerald. That will be too much to overcome against the Scarlet Knights, who have realistic bowl aspirations this season. Rutgers 27, Northwestern 20.